Fulham have turned a corner recently and performances have shown glimpses of the Fulham of last season. Fluid and attacking football making a return has a lot of us believing we can go on a run between now and May similar to last year.
The only real issue in this of course is the squad, fans are divided over whether the current crop of players are good enough to push for promotion, with a recent poll from Fulham Focus suggesting two-thirds of fans feel we have an inadequate squad. But what do we need to make that push? Some feel it is a clinical striker, others a commanding centre back, one thing we know is that there are hundreds of options available to us and in this article we will look at the main positions Fulham need to strengthen and potential options available to us.
The first position I believe Fulham need to improve is our striker, this will be achieved with the acquisition of a proven, clinical goalscorer. We need a player who will take 50/50 chances and help us steal points when we don’t deserve them, as rare as that may be, and for that reason the first player I would suggest we attempt to purchase is Dwight Gayle. Gayle is a proven goalscorer at this level, recording 23 goals in 32 appearances last season, his pace and technical ability can scare many a team and with Newcastle looking to recruit a top striker in the current window Gayle could be surplus to requirements. The main stumbling block in this deal could be the price. Newcastle may be looking to gain extra cash in the current inflated market. At just 27 years old, however, Gayle may be worth shelling out on due to the fact he will be able to continue for 4 seasons at a minimum and can propel us to promotion. The second player who could spearhead Fulham’s attack is Glenn Murray. A lot less likely than Gayle but also a proven scorer at this level. The main issues with this transfer would be the age of Murray (34) and the fact he appears regularly for Brighton in the Premier league, however with Brighton finding themselves struggling and teams around them improving their squads they may need to bring in a big name striker to help them survive the drop, if that is the case then Murray could find himself frozen out of the squad and perhaps could give Fulham the needed boost for promotion this season. A slightly less Orthodox purchase Fulham could make is of a young, foreign striker named Sehrou Guirassy. There have been grumblings early in the transfer window of interest from Fulham in the striker who has scored 4 times for FC Köln in 12 appearances this season, standing at 6 Foot and 1 Inches he could add much needed height to our relatively short front-line. Whether Fulham need to take a gamble on an unproven goalscorer who could cost around five million pounds from a foreign league is debatable and their money and time could be much better spent elsewhere. A name which has popped up recently with links to Fulham is Lewis Grabban, the striker returned to Bournemouth after his parent club and Sunderland mutually agreed to cancel his loan spell and Fulham’s name was one of the first to crop up. Grabban scored 12 goals in 20 games for Sunderland yet decided he no longer wanted to be with them for the rest of the season and has returned to Bournemouth. Bournemouth manager Eddie Howe has said himself that he expects Grabban to move on this window due to there being no need for him on the south coast. The final striker I would like to see Fulham make moves for would be Iheanacho on a loan until June, a young, hungry striker desperate for a chance after only having 9 appearances this season for Leicester with 7 of those being substitute appearances. Iheanacho is struggling to make an impact for Leicester despite coming with a lot of hype from Man City. A young, tricky, pacey striker would fit nicely into Fulham’s front three and with the deal only being a loan there is no major outlay if he proves to be a flop.
The second position that needs strengthening for Fulham is Left-back, almost 100% of Fulham fans would say they prefer Sessegnon playing further forward and with Soares untested at the current time a high-quality left back being brought in could free Sessegnon to be deployed on the wing. The first option I would enquire about is Scott Malone, a lot of people would say never go back to an old player and despite the torrid time he is having in Yorkshire he knows the system we play, he contributed offensively last season and although question marks can be raised over his ability to defend, can he be considered worse than what we currently have? Similar to Iheanacho if we can get Malone in on a loan we wont be any worse off, no major outlays will always be a positive while we are in the Championship due to FFP. Another left back Fulham could attempt to lure to ply his trade at the Cottage is Adama Traore. The Middlesbrough left back is struggling for appearances this season and is an exciting attacking player. When he is attacking he acts like a left winger, bombing down the line and drawing fouls, the only negative being that he can be ill-disciplined and therefore could cause us problems as a team, however if Slav can iron his faults out then he could be the perfect attacking left back to join us, the only problem being Middlesbrough may not allow him to join another team pushing for the top 6. A final option for Fulham in the January window could come in the form of a loan from recent FA Cup opponents Southampton. Left back Matt Targett has only made two league appearances this season after missing the first 4 months through an ankle injury, named as Southampton’s young player of the season in the 14/15 season, Targett will be looking to get regular game-time under his belt to develop his abilities and a half-season loan at a championship club could kick-start his senior career while giving Fulham a dependable left back.
Fulham can also defensively improve by buying a commanding, leader centre back. We have missed a real leader since the days of Hangeland and in general having a leader on the team can greatly improve a defence. A defender like Bamba from Cardiff could prove to be instrumental in turning our defence from OK to solid. A large unit of a defender who isn’t afraid to get stuck in and when put up against a huge striker won’t simply be out-jumped or out-muscled. The most difficult part about acquiring Bamba from Cardiff would be Neil Warnock, the Cardiff manager claims Bamba is better than Virgil Van Dijk and if the board decided to sell him to us you could imagine we will have to pay over the odds for him however he would be well worth it. The second suggestion for a centre back comes in the form of our play-off opponents from last season, Reading. Centre-back Liam Moore was integral to the way Reading played last season and is comfortable with the ball at his feet, averaging 60.6 passes per game last season and having an average match rating of 7.15. An intelligent player who at the young age of 24 could still develop into an even better player than he is already, he was recently left out of the match day squad for Reading vs Stevenage despite the rest of the team being almost full-strength, possibly indicating that he could be on his way out very shortly. A third option who could be brought in on a loan deal and therefore could help keep costs down is Kyle Bartley. Ruled out for two months at the end of august with a ligament injury, Bartley has been struggling for game time as of late and could be looking for a loan deal to continue his development as he approaches his best years. Last season Bartley played for Leeds and made 45 appearances in the championship alone, averaging 1.64 points per game during his time with them and only missing out on a play-off place due to Fulham’s great run. Paired with Jansson for the majority of the season they formed a formidable defence and only conceded 47 goals over the season, the 4th lowest of any team that season, bettered only by Newcastle, Brighton and Huddersfield. Bringing in such a qualified defender who has priceless championship experience could be vital to pushing for promotion over the next five months.
Overall the options to Fulham are near to limitless and it is down to the board and Slavisa to work together to bring in players at a reasonable price who will be used, with Kline gone we have to hope that this window will be easier than the previous few, although early signs show that we could be in for similar sort of media power-plays from Slavisa that we have seen used before to get signings. Despite the potential rifts that could open up, I believe that the Khans will realise after last season that miracles do not happen year after year and backing Slavisa could turn us into a deadly team.